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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

On Live Mesh and Silverlight

David Treadwell was on the latest Gillmor Gang talking about the recent Live Mesh announcement.  David’s title is Corporate Vice President, Live Platform Services and has been described as Ray Ozzie’s point man on the Mesh.

It was a pleasure talking with him — and thanks to David for the LiveMesh invitations.

The synchronization capability in this preview is a big deal not in what it provides, but for what it promises. 

That is why it is a little disappointing that there is such a heavy emphasis on Windows and Windows Mobile.  I discount the coming Macintosh support because support for non-Windows mobile devices is really the issue.  If iPhones and Blackberrys are out of the equation, then the synchronization story isn’t so compelling.

Nobody should be surprised about Microsoft promoting Windows.  And I certainly am not, but Microsoft’s new openness had me hoping for a different alignment of Microsoft strategy.  One in which their S+S play would de-couple the Windows, Office, Windows Mobile, and Live businesses.  I saw this happening through the Silverlight runtime everywhere.  I hoped that the mobile Live Mesh synchronization client would be written on top of Silverlight.  I hoped that the next Office Mobile would be too.  Then Live services could serve any device running Silverlight.  And so on.  I’ve written about this previously, so I’ll leave it at that.

Instead, Microsoft is approaching Live Mesh as a set of open protocols that anyone can implement. So, an iPhone version could be written by a 3rd party using the Apple SDK.  Just implement the protocols — of which FeedSync seems to be the major part — and you are all set.  That is very good and much better than requiring the use of a Microsoft runtime to make it happen.

But, in addition to the open protocols, I would still have preferred a vision where the Silverlight runtime lies underneath the Microsoft implementations of the Live Mesh client.  That way, when the next big feature set for Live Mesh is released, the new client code could conceivably run everywhere. 

I want to make one thing clear: I’m not saying that Silverlight in its current form could support this at all.  And I know Silverlight’s (nee WPF/E) genesis emphasized presentation, but at the end of the day, it is a .NET runtime. 

As David says (from the Gillmor Gang transcript on TechCrunch):

Treadwell: I really view mesh and Silverlight as orthogonal and complementary technologies. Essentially what the mesh client does, it’s the runtime for doing synchronization and collaboration those kinds of things. I view Silverlight as a runtime that does the presentation engine. Mesh doesn’t really have anything for presentation, Silverlight doesn’t really have anything for synchronization and mobile communications. Working together I think you have a very good thought there about the combination of these and how they’ll come together. We’re working actively on that but we don’t have all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Yes.  They are orthogonal if Microsoft says they are.  And Live Mesh and Silverlight will somehow come together though this appears to mean in terms of presentation.  Fair enough.

And more than a little cool.

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    Joe wrote @ April 28th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Yes, totally agree. I get the impression that this has as much to do with organizational structure than anything else. Microsoft is still very much a company of silos where each unit governs its own technology. There really isn’t a pyramid structure that would see a more layered approach to the platform.

That said, technically there would be problems implementing the mesh runtime in SL2.0. For a start you would need to break out of the sandbox.

    Robert W. Anderson wrote @ April 28th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for the comment, Joe.

Yeah, there is that whole sandbox thing. But essentially runtimes need to be able to interface with their surrounding OS. The question is how much will the runtime enable a useful abstraction of a generic OS? In terms of synchronization, it seems like it would be fairly straightforward to support access to the underlying file system and contacts / calendar events. Of course, with the proper authorization by the user. Just like on my Blackberry.

[…] different devices and platforms. But Microsoft is still stressing how Live Mesh will work with Windows and Windows Mobile (even though it will be able to run on any device). And now that partner, Digipede Technologies CTO […]

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